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Yellowstone Park Ranger Harlan Kredit talks about Wolves, and other things..

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This past weekend, Harlan Kredit celebrated his 40th season as a summer park ranger in Yellowstone National Park. Kredit and his wife Linda spent their first summer on the shores of Yellowstone Lake in 1971. Together they’ve seen many changes in Yellowstone, and they’ve seen many things stay the same.

“If you had asked me 40 years ago if I’d be in the same place today, I’d have said ‘no,’” Kredit said Friday, “but it is a new summer every year.”

Here are some of Kredit’s reflections on working in Yellowstone over the last four decades:

The fires of 1988

“The fires of ’88 were a tough time for everybody. We didn’t have time off, everybody worked seven days a week. We couldn’t close the park because visitors had reservations, but there was smoke and fire just about everywhere. You could see the glow in the sky all around you.

“We had to maintain all our regular programs, guided walks, evening ranger talks, but we also had to man information roadblocks. Managing the visitors was a huge job.

“It has been amazing to witness the rebirth in Yellowstone since the fires. There are thousands of trees that have come back and not a single one was planted. There are forests of hundreds and hundreds of thousands of them.”

Wolves in Yellowstone

“The wolf reintroduction started out as a very controversial thing. Eventually the sentiment was that Yellowstone Park is federal land and wolves were an important piece of the region that was lacking.

“Just this morning I was out in the Hayden Valley. I talked to many visitors, many foreign visitors. They will sit out there day after day to see a wolf. It has become a really, really big deal. Virtually every morning of the week, you can go to Hayden Valley and it is packed with visitors hoping to see a wolf. You went there five years ago and it wasn’t like that. The public interest in wolves has just skyrocketed.

“It doesn’t become old hat. The weather changes, the flowers change and the people change. Many have never seen a wolf before. People get out of their cars to look. When they are excited, I am excited.”

His most emotional moment in the park

“I was involved in a search for a 15-month-old toddler near Lewis Lake. We were doing our best to find this child, but it was very cold and it was 3 o’clock in the morning. I really was convinced this child was no longer alive.

“I was looking by myself and came through three trees and pushed the branches aside and looked down with my headlamp and laying there looking at me was this little toddler with these big blue eyes.

“Time just stood still. It was a really emotional moment. I felt like God and I were the only ones that knew this child was alive.

“To return a 15-month-old baby to a family was an experience that is really hard to describe.”

His goal as a Yellowstone ranger

“I want to talk with people about the importance of protecting this place. Every generation believes it is doing what’s best for Yellowstone. When they eradicated wolves at the turn of the century, they believed it was for the best.

“I wonder if time will tell that the generation of 2011 is really doing the best things in terms of taking care of the park, but I think we need to not be so arrogant.

“My final goal is that when visitors leave, they leave with the idea that we all live on this one planet and we are all connected. My challenge is to leave them with an understanding of these complex biological connections.”

Yellowstone’s international appeal

“Yellowstone is the oldest national park in the world. I recently spoke with a park ranger from England, and he said he always wanted to come and see Yellowstone because this is where the idea started.

“When we had that bear attack on the Wapiti Lake Trail a few weeks ago, it was well reported in Europe. When something happens, good, bad or whatever, it reaches the international papers and media. The European visitors actually ask the same questions as the American ones – how to stay safe in bear country, where to camp?

“I have observed a big rise in the number of international visitors. Italian, Dutch, German, Japanese – you can hear languages from all over the world spoken in Yellowstone. One of the daily joys and challenges for me is helping the international visitors see and enjoy the park.”

His Yellowstone family

“Our three kids all grew up here and learned to swim on the shores of Yellowstone Lake. All three at one time worked for the park service. One of the things that has kept me coming back is that family feeling. I have great relations with the people I work with.

“When I come back every year, I drive by Sulfur Cauldron. Some people can’t stand that smell, but it gives me a warm feeling. Yellowstone has given me a sense of place. It is where I belong.

“I am very blessed. I feel that I have been given an opportunity which most have never had. We are a Yellowstone family. This park is who we are.”

Courtesy Bozeman Chronicle

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